Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2002/04/13

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Subject: Re: [Leica] No! No!, Erwin!
From: Bryan Caldwell <>
Date: Sat, 13 Apr 2002 08:58:04 -0700


The issue is not whether any relationship with Leica skews Erwin's (or
anyone else's) reports. The issue is whether or not such a relationship
should be disclosed when presenting what are portrayed as unbiased reports.

I believe that any connection (no matter how insignificant it may seem) with
the manufacturer of a product that is being reviewed should be disclosed. If
the product is provided (or loaned) by the manufacturer (rather than being
purchased by the reviewer, that should be disclosed. If the individual item
is select for review by the manufacturer rather than picked at random from a
dealer's stock, that should be disclosed. If a manufacturer has exercised
any control whatsoever over what a reviewer says about a product, that
should be disclosed. If a reviewer has received any treatment from a
manufacturer that would differentiate them from any average consumer, that
should be disclosed.

Failure to do this does not mean that the results of the review or test are
not accurate or impartial. They are just facts that a reader/consumer has a
right to know when deciding how much weight to give to the opinions and
conclusions of the reviewer.

It's not really any different than Consumer Reports magazine pointing out in
every issue that they buy all products for review as if they were any other
consumer (without identifying themselves - and return any product that is
provided to them by a manufacturer) or NBC news disclosing every time they
report on a story involving Microsoft that they have a joint business
venture with Microsoft (MSNBC). Disclosure is just the ethical and proper
thing to do.

I have not followed every thread involving Erwin. But, in the past, I have
noticed that disclosures of any kind were absent from his web site. I have
also read posts by Erwin that clearly imply that he has a high level of
communication with Leica. Again, I don't point this out to question his
results.  I agree with Austin (with whom I often disagree on other topics)
that asking for a clarification of this is not a personal attack. My
observation of what happened on the LUG is that many of Erwin's readers took
such questioning as a personal attack.

Conflict of interest is a very touchy subject because many people fail to
realize (or forget) that it has to do with "appearance" as well as actual
conflict. One who presents tests or reviews as scientific and objective
should have no problem disclosing any and all information that could even
result in an appearance of impropriety.


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